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2016 Fantasy Baseball: Must-Draft and Stash Rookies

Paul Shapiro February 11, 2016 11:31AM EDT
Entering 2015 Fantasy drafts, there was one player that was different from all of the others. That player was the Cubs’ Kris Bryant. What made him different was that he was starting the 2015 season in the Minor Leagues but was still being drafted in the Top 100.

The reason for this was Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. That agreement says that six full years of service time gets you to free agency. If you accrue 172 days in any season, it is considered a full year. Anything else does not.

This antiquated rule keeps a player like Bryant under team control for an extra year simply by keeping him in the Minors for the first few weeks of the season. The Cubs did just that last year and held Bryant at Triple-A for 12 days which will delay the NL Rookie of the Year’s free agency by an entire year. Despite the short wait, Bryant put up impressive numbers in 2015 — 151 games played and 559 at-bats amassed to 26 home runs, 87 runs, 99 RBIs and 13 stolen bases along with a .275 batting average.

Tyler Glasnow could easily slot in as Pittsburgh's No. 3 starter by midseason. Photo Credit: Scott Tidlund

Tyler Glasnow could easily slot in as Pittsburgh’s No. 3 starter by midseason. Photo Credit: Scott Tidlund

While Bryant started 2015 in the Minors, his ADP did not reflect that. After Bryant, there was a laundry list of other impact rookies like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Kyle Schwarber, Miguel Sano and Noah Syndergaard to name a few. But those guys were all afterthoughts on draft day. They were picked up in the 20th round or later (some even went undrafted) while Bryant was being picked in or around the eighth round, when there was still plenty of high-end, starting talent available in the draft pool. I don’t expect this year’s Minors-to-Majors class to have nearly as big of an impact, but the following players will definitely contribute this coming season.

That being said, there sadly isn’t a player like Bryant in the 2016 Fantasy Baseball draft class. These players will eventually make an impact on their Major League teams as well as your Fantasy squads; you just may need to wait a bit longer than the 12 days we did for Bryant.

Draft and stash these guys once you’ve filled out your starting roster, wait until they are called up to the Bigs and then reap the benefits.

Pick These Pitching Prospects

The first player popping up on draft boards that falls into this category is Pirates’ starter Tyler Glasnow. Amazingly, his ADP is 260. That’s equivalent to a pick in Round 20, meaning Glasnow and every other player discussed here can be had at almost no cost. As long as you don’t mind “wasting” a roster spot for a few months, you’ll have a key contributor waiting in the wings.

The Pirates’ top pitching prospect dominated at three different levels of the Minors last season. He put up a combined 2.39 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 136 strikeouts in 109.1 innings between Low-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. With numbers like that and the stuff to match, all that’s standing between Glasnow and your starting roster are three veteran starters — Jeff Locke, Jon Niese and Ryan Vogelsong.

Looking at those names and their career stats, I’d be amazed if Glasnow didn’t debut sooner rather than later with Pittsburgh. He will likely end the season behind only the team’s ace Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, making a nice 1-2-3 punch for a team with playoff aspirations.

Another pitcher that I’m really looking forward to seeing in the Bigs is the Nats’ Lucas Giolito. Despite his recent invite to Major League Spring Training, Giolito seems to have a lot more standing in his way in Washington’s rotation. Behind their Big 3 — Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez — are two other solid starters Joe Ross and Tanner Roark as well as veteran and Dusty Baker favorite Bronson Arroyo.

Giolito, who is regarded as one of top pitching prospects in baseball, should get nothing more than his first taste of the Major Leagues at Spring Training. He’ll start and spend much of the season in the Minors with a likely September call-up in his future. The 21-year-old Giolito is more of a Dynasty league play, but is well worth taking a later-round flier on.

Stash These Shortstops

Shortstops are the cornerstone of any Major League team and are also a key cog of any Fantasy squad. The Phillies’ J.P. Crawford received an invite to MLB Spring Training, but he is expected to start the season at Triple-A, making him a perfect draft-and-stash candidate. The 21-year-old is the top prospect in the Phillies organization, Top 10 in all of baseball and is getting comparisons to Phillies great Jimmy Rollins. And all signs point to Crawford being ready to fill those shoes.

While the Phillies will start the season with Freddy Galvis at short, putting a delay on Crawford’s MLB service time, the 2013 first-round pick will likely be a game-changer once he makes it to the Majors. Crawford can hit for average (he has a combined .290 in three Minor League seasons) and is known for his great eye (he has walked 160 times in his Minor League career) meaning he will be on base a lot. Once on base, he has the potential to steal 15-20 bags and will also hit for double-digit home runs, giving him all the necessary tools to stick for a long time.

Crawford could end up being a steal after you stash him on your bench for the first few months of the upcoming season.

Another shortstop, who looks primed and ready to make an impact on the Majors, is the Brewers’ Orlando Arcia. After Milwaukee traded Jean Segura to the Diamondbacks, only Jonathan Villar stands in Arcia’s way. Villar is a stolen base Fantasy sleeper, but he really shouldn’t provide much of a roadblock for the top prospect.

Brewers General Manager David Stearns confirmed this, saying that the trade wouldn’t change Arcia’s timetable for arriving to the Majors, so expect to see him called up some time around Memorial Day. Once the 21-year-old makes it to the Majors, expect similar results to his stats at Double-A last season, where he batted .307 with 25 stolen bases.

Again, it’s a matter of how soon these teams want to start a future Fantasy stud’s service time clock. This trend will continue for years to come and Fantasy owners will have to continue stashing top prospects on their rosters and waiting for them to break into the Bigs.

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